Tobold's Blog
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Habit forming

I own over a thousand games. Or rather, as a lawyer would tell me, I own limited licenses which allow me to play those thousand games I bought on different platforms. Plus there are thousands and thousands of games I could play for free or little money if I wanted. Supply definitively isn't the problem. The problem is having a real life which limits the time per day I can spend playing. The problem is coming home tired from work and not wanting to deal with anything too complex any more that day. The problem is learning curves of games, especially if you wanted to flit from one genre to another for more variety.

All these reasons result in that there is a high probability that the game I play on day N is the same game I played on day N-1. That usually requires the least mental effort, and it is likely that when I closed down the game yesterday there were still things I wanted to do in it. So let's play it again, Sam!

Game companies know that. And because they know that, they add "daily" features to their games. That isn't some new-fangled invention of the Free2Play age, already Ultima Online gave you double progress in the first hour you played every day. World of Warcraft introduced daily quests, daily crafting cooldowns, and in this expansion a bunch of stuff in your garrison which is on a daily timer. Of course Free2Play games also use that sort of feature a lot, you usually get some bonus for login in every day, and the longer the chain of daily logins gets, the more rewards you receive for that.

The idea is to form a habit with players login in every day. As long as players login every day, they are more likely to be willing to pay subscription fees or whatever is on offer in the item store. If you don't play, you're less willing to pay. But like all features the "daily" features have a risk of being overused and showing their downsides: At some point the daily login becomes a chore, which hardly isn't the way to endear the game to you. Miss a day, and it will feel like a punishment to have broken the reward chain or at least missed out on a day of easy to get rewards.

But as Zubon reports, there is a new trend to make daily quests a bit less of a chore: Accumulating daily quests. Magic Duels gives you a new quest only every second day, and the previous ones are stored on a list which can hold 3 quests. Thus if you only play Magic Duels every weekend, you still haven't missed any "daily". Apparently Heroes of the Storm also has a way to accumulate quests (I'm not currently playing that, although I logged in today to get a free Diablo hero). Even World of Warcraft has introduced weekend events with a very wide definition of weekend to accommodate people who are on a slower schedule than daily.

You might see that as yet another brick in the wall of the ongoing casualisation of games, but I do think that accumulating daily quests and having weekly stuff as well is a good idea. Personally I'm getting sick and tired of the daily garrison maintenance in WoW, even if that pays for my subscription.

WoW did this in the past for heroic dungeon run bonuses. It was removed not long after, but I don't really remember the explanation of why.....

In modern AAA, Hearthstone did this first from what I know.
A big part of what makes daily chores like garrison chores so tedious is that there is no end to it. A daily quest hub may take a few weeks or a month of playing every day, but at least you can see an end to it. Whether you do that month of dailies in one straight month, or spread over several months, you'll be done before you grow too tired of it.

This is the difference between "chores" and working towards a goal: unsurprisingly, the goal. Garrison chores and "forever" daily tasks mean you will never stop, and there is no ultimate goal you can look to. This makes the chores feel tedious much more quickly, and of course lazy developers want this to be content that occupies you every day for months and months.

Personally, I have always been a fan of weekly quests/content. It is much easier to fit around the player's schedule, and you avoid both burnout and the feeling of "missing out" if you can't play a game 365 days a year. I don't say a lot of positive things about raiding, but this is something it got right, and I would say it is the primary reason why raiding is viable as ongoing end-game content. It takes you a LOT longer to grow tired of something if you only see it once a week.
Queuing tasks every day like a F2P mobile-gaming TCG is what jaded me on Draenor.

Samus has the right of it. I want goals, not chores. No more chores please. I do not want to do them.
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